Outside our window a magpie is removing a long twig from a nest at the top of an old birch tree. It takes some doing – the twig has been wound into the form of the nest in a way that has made it resistant to wind and snow storms all winter. The bird flies off with a twig four times its own width.
I know most things that happen around this particular nest because our sofa is placed so the nest is in full view. A view of an old birch tree and a bird’s nest that has never been used – it doesn’t sound too exciting, but I’m absorbed by it nonetheless.
I wasn’t here when it first was built. Our neighbour says there’s always been a nest there but no bird has ever nested in it. That’s hard to imagine, in the early spring, when the tree is visited by both magpies and crows. Serious building work goes on at that time. The basic shell of the nest is added to with newly plucked twigs and is soon large.
Last spring I noticed there were usually a couple of birds waiting in the top of the tree, next to the nest. It was a place for birds to hang out. Occasionally one of them would nip down to have a quick check, perhaps add a small twig. Then they would fly off, and be replaced by other birds, who would do the same.
They were magpies and crows, but never at the same time. I waited to see which would win. I waited and waited. I felt sure some of these birds were moving in – but they didn’t. Spring came and the birds went somewhere else. The nest was empty.
In the summer the nest was visited by a wider range of birds. A bit like a summer house I suppose. Birds liked to visit, have a look, fly off. The nest was huge, a summer mansion really. Then winter conditions arrived, gusting winds, wet snow, and later snow storms. The nest didn’t move at all, not all winter. Bits of tree fell to the ground – even whole trees went this year – but the bird’s nest was the same size at the end of the winter as it was at the start.
A couple of weeks ago I thought the nest looked smaller, which was odd given how much I’d admired its staying power over winter. Then I saw a magpie with a twig in its beak – it was removing twigs from the nest. I wondered what the next stage of this would be. Is the nest really just a twig store after all?
I’m also watching them build ‘the new Kiruna’. There’s not a lot to see, but the inner foundations of a new town hall have at last poked up above ground, in a wide open space that is to be the new town. When we visited yesterday we weren’t surprised to see that there’s still not much there. The car dump is still in operation nearby though, and the old golf course is waiting for the snow to clear for the summer season. It remains to be seen whether in the future twigs will continue to be added, or removed.